Gotabaya Nandasena Rajapaksa has ceased to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America (USA) according to well -informed sources .
The Retired Army Colonel and Former Defence and Urban Development Secretary has formally relinquished his US citizenship and has lost his Dual citizen status in Sri Lanka it is learnt
Earlier Mr.Gotabaya Rajapaksa known popularly as Gota had been both a citizen of Sri Lanka as well as of the USA.
However this situation has now changed with Gota Rajapaksa’s formal renunciation of his US citizenship.
It is learnt reliably that Mr.Gotabaya Rajapaksa appeared in person before the chief of the Consular section at the US embassy in Colombo Mr. Philip Van Horn on April 17th 2019 and signed an oath of renunciation of his US citizenship as required by US law.
Under Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)), A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer in a foreign country at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and sign an oath of renunciation.
Since Mr.Rajapaksa has complied with these requirements he has “lost” his US citizenship and is now entitled to a Loss of US Nationality certificate within a period of two to four weeks. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is required to hand over his US passport upon receipt of the loss of US Nationality certificate. The Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States (CLN) is form DS-4083 of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the United States Department of State which is completed by a consular official of the United States documenting relinquishment of United States nationality.
Journalists who contacted the US embassy in Colombo to verify details about Mr. Rajapaksa renouncing his US citizenship were told that the US embassy does not comment publicly about any individual gaining, forfeiting or relinquishing his or her US citizenship. US diplomatic circles adopted the usual stance of not issuing either a confirmation or denial officially.
Meanwhile in an interview to the Indian newsmagazine “The Week” dated May 4th 2019 Gota stated that he would be contesting the Presidential elections. When asked whether his Dual citizenship would be a hinderance to his contesting, Gota responded by saying that he had renounced his US citizenship.
Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa had initiated the process of US citizenship renunciation by visiting the US embassy for a meeting at the Consular section on March 6th 2019. He had later obtained permission from the Colombo Special High Court to visit the USA from March 26th to April 12th
This was granted and Mr.Rajapaksa left for the US where he met with lawyers and US officials in bid to expedite the renunciation process.
Upon his return on April 12th Mr.Rajapaksa was given a rousing welcome by supporters at the Colombo Airport where he told the media that he had been successful in completing all formalities necessary for expediting the renunciation of his US citizenship.
After the Sinhala – Tamil New Year festivities were over, Mr.Rajapaksa sought and obtained an appointment with the US consular section head on April 17th and signed the oath of citizenship renunciation
Gotabaya Rajapaksa had migrated to California in the US with his family in the early nineties of the last century after retiring from the Army where he served as a Colonel in the Gajaba Regiment.
He returned to the country in 2005 to help his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential elections. Thereafter he served as Secretary of Defence and played a crucially important role in conducting the successful war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE)
After the electoral defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 the new Government enacted the 19th Constitutional amendment which debarred Mahinda from contesting the presidency again
Anticipating that Gotabaya Rajapaksa may then become a potential presidential poll candidate the same 19th amendment debarred Dual citizens also from contesting the presidential or Parliamentary poll.
This effectively prevented Gota from contesting unless he forfeited his US citizenship
Gotabaya himself told the media that he would renounce his US citizenship at the appropriate juncture to be eligible to contest the presidency.
There was however much speculation that the US would not let Gotabaya renounce his US citizenship and be eligible to contest presidential elections.
These doubts are now cleared with Gotabaya Rajapaksa formally renouncing his US citizenship and ceasing to be a dual citizen.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is already the choice of the Rajapaksa family and the majority of MPs, Provincial and Local authority councillors in the opposition to be the candidate at the Presidential Elections due before December this year
The candidacy however has not yet been formally announced by Mahinda Rajapaksa presumably because the US citizenship renunciation process was not over
Now that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has renounced his US citizenship and ceased to be a US National there seem to be no legal impediments to his Presidential candidacy
It is expected that Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be formally “anointed” as the Sri Lanka Podujana Party Presidential election candidate in due course.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org